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OHS students do auto program proud at MITES competition

Oxford’s MITES winners included (from left) Sean Hunter, Steve Dziorny, James McCormick and Chad Simmers. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
May 23, 2012 - Oxford High School's talented automotive students once again tested and proved their superior knowledge and skills on a statewide level.

Steve Dziorny, Sean Hunter, Chad Simmers and James McCormick earned a combined 14 awards at the Michigan Industrial & Technology Education Society's (MITES) 18th annual automotive competition held May 11 at Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw.

"This was my first time at the competition and it was a great finish – I brought four guys and everyone won," said OHS Auto Instructor Dan Balsley. "That was kind of a nice treat."

Approximately 88 students from 30 high schools and career centers participated in either the basic maintenance service or advanced service technology contests.

Dziorny, a senior, won the most awards of any student in the Oxford contingent, including taking eighth place overall in the state.

"He's a very bright student, very intelligent," Balsley said. "In the competition, he just really cleaned up. I was really pleased to see him do so well."

Dziorny's other awards included first place in engine repair, second place in engine performance, third place in general knowledge, sixth place in automotive math and ninth place in automotive brakes.

So far, Dziorny has earned a combined $12,000 in scholarship offers from three technical colleges and universities. More could be on the way.

It's interesting to note that Dziorny's familiarity with cars stems from the fact he's been in the OHS auto program for 3½ years and his hobby involves a need for speed.

"He's a part-time drag racer," Balsley said. "On the weekends, he drag races all over the country with his mom. That's kind of neat."

Hunter, a senior, did well earning two awards for steering and suspension (first place) and engine repair (fifth place). He earned $20,000 in scholarship offers from two technical colleges.

He, too, has been in the auto program for 3½ years.

"I was real glad to see his successes," Balsley said.

Hunter originally placed third out of 30 in the class on the on-line qualifying exam for the Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition. Only the top two students made it to the state finals.

"My heart went out to him because he wanted to do that so much," Balsley said.

"He was coming in Wednesday mornings and studying with me all year, trying to qualify. So, when he missed that (opportunity), I was especially glad to be able to take him (to the MITES competition)."

On a personal note, Balsley noted that Hunter's a "very nice person to have in the program and to work with."

"We've gotten close after all these years," he said. "He's a lot of help in the (auto) program. As a senior, he's taken on a lot of responsibilities, so it's good to see how much he's grown to this point."

Simmers had an impressive showing by taking ninth place overall in the state, plus winning fourth place in automotive math, fifth place in tool identification and sixth place on the written competency test.

"Chad is exceptionally bright," Balsley said. "He's a freshman and he was beating upper classmen in his category (at the MITES competition). He got ninth overall in the state, which is just amazing. He's really intelligent and very dedicated, so I have high hopes for him in the future. I hope to get him involved in the competition next year."

McCormick, a freshman, brought home two awards for tool identification (seventh place) and vehicle safety inspection (sixth place).

"He's very interested and doing well in the class," Balsley said. "I see a lot of potential in him as well. His family's got some experience (with auto work), so he's not new to this. He's got a good background to draw on."

With regard to Simmers and McCormick, Balsley said, "I didn't really realize until the end of the competition that my guys were one of the few, if not only, freshmen involved in the competition."

Founded in 1928, MITES (www.mites.cc) supports both teachers and students in the areas of industrial, career and technical education. The nonprofit organization consists of more than 600 members and volunteers who believe in the power of hands-on, relevant and real-world learning.

Competing in these events has many benefits, according to Balsley.

"I think it's a great motivator for the kids," he said. "It's something that they look forward to all year."

It's also a good opportunity to promote the OHS auto program.

"It's just a win-win for everybody," Balsley said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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